Reflecting on the state of LGBTQ+ literature as we close our fourth annual Pride Isue, it’s hard not to feel that we are living in the world of Dickens’ famous opening to A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.…”
On the one hand, we have an abundance of diverse queer books for readers of all ages. Our editors highlight some of the outstanding examples—fiction, nonfiction, children’s, and young adult—in their columns for the issue. We feature interviews with fiction writer Lydia Conklin (Rainbow Rainbow), historian Hugh Ryan (The Women’s House of Detention), middle-grade novelist medina (The One Who Loves You the Most), and YA novelist Tucker Shaw (When You Call My Name); their work illuminates many different aspects of LGBTQ+ history and experience.
At the same time, the backlash has been fierce. Book banning in schools and libraries is on the rise, and LGBTQ+ books are frequently in the crosshairs. Contributor Michael Schaub recaps some of the most startling examples—from New York and Virginia to Texas and Florida—that have occurred this year. And cartoonist Damian Alexander (whose excellent 2021 graphic memoir, Other Boys, recounted his own queer youth) reflects on what this censorious climate means for LGBTQ+ creators—and the young people who look to these books for recognition and understanding.
The hypocrisy of the censors would be humorous if it weren’t so dangerous. After all, aren’t the very people looking to shield students from content they don’t like the same ones who turn around and decry so-called “cancel culture”? Apparently, it’s perfectly all right to “cancel” LGBTQ+ books—just don’t touch anything that upholds the cisgender heterosexual White patriarchy! For the cover of this issue, we asked cartoonist Rob Kirby to illustrate this contradiction; see the cartoon he created above.
I first encountered Kirby’s work some 25 years ago when his sly and sweet comic strip “Curbside” ran in the New York weekly LGNY and other queer newspapers around the country—a sort of gay little brother to Alison Bechdel’s Dykes To Watch Out For. Many of these strips were collected in the anthology Curbside Boys; Kirby also edited the anthologies QU33R and The Shirley Jackson Project, and his memoir, Marry Me a Little, is forthcoming from Graphic Mundi in 2023. His work, and Alexander’s, are a reminder that cartoons are a unique genre through which LGBTQ+ creators have always been able to express themselves and present their points of view.
We hope the Pride Issue inspires you to seek out some of these LGBTQ+ stories for yourself—as well as some banned books while you’re at it. As George M. Johnson discovered when his YA “memoir-manifesto,” All Boys Aren’t Blue, was widely banned—sometime the free publicity of a ban is just the thing to bring more readers to your work. All Boys is now a bestseller.
Tom Beer is the editor-in-chief.